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BRYANT v. MAFFUCCI

January 23, 1990

GRISHELDA BRYANT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN J. MAFFUCCI, DAWN THACKERAY, YVONNE POWELL, NORWOOD JACKSON, AND DR. EDWARD ALLAN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William C. Conner, District Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff brings this civil rights action alleging that her constitutional rights were violated by the defendants when they failed to provide the necessary procedures to terminate her unwanted pregnancy. Defendants now move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, Fed.R.Civ.P. For the reasons discussed below, defendants' motion is granted.

FACTS

On July 31, 1985, plaintiff Grishelda Bryant was committed to the custody of the Westchester County Department of Correction. When plaintiff told a booking agent that she believed she was pregnant, Westchester County Correctional Facility scheduled a sonogram for plaintiff at the Westchester County Medical Center on August 1, 1985. The sonogram indicated that plaintiff was in her twenty-first week of pregnancy. Plaintiff then informed a nurse at the Westchester County Correction Facility that she wanted her pregnancy terminated. She was told on August 2, 1985 by a nurse to put her request in writing. By letters to defendants Thackeray and Dr. Allan dated August 2, 1985, plaintiff requested an abortion.

According to his testimony and a notation on the letter, Dr. Allan received plaintiff's letter on August 8, 1985 and, through his office, arranged for an appointment to be scheduled at the Kings County Hospital Center, where abortions were performed on pregnant female inmates housed at the Westchester County Correctional Facility who were more than twelve weeks pregnant. The appointment was scheduled for August 19, 1985, allegedly the earliest appointment available. According to the Westchester County Medical Center composite sonogram results, which found plaintiff to be in her twenty-first week on August 1, 1985, the August 19, 1985 appointment was within the twenty-four week legally permissible time period, which would have expired on August 22, 1985. Unaware of the status of her request, plaintiff inquired and was informed by defendants Thackeray and Powell that an appointment was scheduled for her to receive an abortion. By memorandum dated August 12, 1985, Dr. Allan advised defendant Jackson that the plaintiff was in her twenty-second week of pregnancy, that an abortion had been scheduled at Kings County Hospital Center for August 19, 1985 and that transportation had been arranged. A copy of this memo was sent to defendant Thackeray.

On August 19, 1985, plaintiff was transported to Kings County Hospital Center by the Westchester County Department of Correction. A second sonogram was performed which, as interpreted by Kings County Hospital personnel, indicated that plaintiff was twenty-four weeks pregnant, a gestation period beyond the legal limit. Consequently, the abortion was not performed and plaintiff was returned to the Westchester County Correctional Facility. On November 29, 1985, plaintiff was released to the custody of the New York City Department of Correction. On December 4, 1985, plaintiff gave birth to a daughter while in the custody of the New York City Department of Correction.

At all relevant times cited in the complaint, John J. Maffucci was Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Correction, Norwood Jackson was Warden of the Westchester County Correctional Facility, Dawn Thackeray and Yvonne Powell were Assistant Wardens respectively in charge of and assigned to the Women's Unit, and Dr. Edward Allan was Director of Correctional Health Services under the auspices of the Westchester County Medical Center. Medical services are provided to all inmates housed at the Westchester County Correctional Facility by the Westchester County Correctional Health Services.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard for Summary Judgment

Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), a court may enter summary judgment only if it finds that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that, based on the undisputed facts, the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. See e.g., Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2509-10, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Horn & Hardart Co. v. Pillsbury Co., 888 F.2d 8, 10 (2d Cir. 1989); Montana v. First Federal Savings & Loan Ass'n, 869 F.2d 100, 103 (2d Cir. 1989); Knight v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 932, 107 S.Ct. 1570, 94 L.Ed.2d 762 (1987). The movant bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The burden then shifts to the party opposing the motion "to produce sufficient evidence to support a claim that a genuine factual issue exists." Gutwein v. Roche Laboratories, 739 F.2d 93, 95 (2d Cir. 1984).

In determining whether a genuine issue exists, the court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. See Horn & Hardart, 888 F.2d at 10; Montana, 869 F.2d at 103; Donahue v. Windsor Locks Bd. of Fire Comm'rs, 834 F.2d 54, 57 (2d Cir. 1987). However, the opponent may not rest on rote allegations, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). Thus, the mere existence of some "metaphysical doubt" concerning the facts will not defeat summary judgment, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1355-56, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986), nor will speculation or conjecture as to the true nature of the facts. See Quarles v. General Motors Corp., 758 F.2d 839, 840 (2d Cir. 1985).

The applicable substantive law will identify which facts are material. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510. If the dispute about a material fact is genuine — that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party — summary judgment is inappropriate. Id. However, if the evidence, even when viewed in the non-movant's favor, is legally insufficient to support a verdict for that party, summary judgment may be granted. See id. at 249, 252, 106 S.Ct. at 2510, 2512; Shearson Lehman CMO, Inc. v. TCF Banking & Savings, 710 F. Supp. 67, 69 (S.D.N Y 1989).

II. Plaintiff's Civil Rights Claims

A. Standard for Constitutional Violation

The standard for determining whether there has been an unconstitutional denial*fn2 of medical care is whether there has been deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical need, illness or injury.*fn3 See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976); Todaro v. Ward, 565 F.2d 48, 52 (2d Cir. 1977); Bishop v. Stoneman, 508 F.2d 1224, 1225 (2d Cir. 1974). In Estelle, the Supreme Court held that in order to state a cognizable claim under the Eighth Amendment, a prisoner must allege acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to show deliberate indifference because only such indifference offends the "evolving standards of decency" in violation of the Eighth ...


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